More than a dozen UWM students taken to area hospitals after exposure to carbon monoxide at residence hall

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- More than a dozen University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee students were taken to area hospitals after being exposed to carbon monoxide at Cambridge Commons residence hall Monday night, Feb. 28.

According to UWM, housing staff became aware of the problem when students came to the front desk complaining of headaches, dizziness and other symptoms.

The UWM Police Department and Milwaukee Fire Department were called to the scene, and firefighters assessed the building and determined there were elevated levels of carbon monoxide and ordered an evacuation around 10 p.m.

"They just had us evacuate really quickly and told us to walk across the bridge," UWM sophomore Connor O'Brien told CBS 58.

Students who live at the residence hall credit the building staff and first responders for a safe evacuation.

"This wasn't a very hectic process, it was very like, kind of organized, and we got out and they were informative about what was happening," Alanda, a sophomore, said.

MFD officials told CBS 58 they needed additional resources to investigate the source of the leak.

"When [firefighters] arrived they did an investigation to find the source, and unfortunately it was a little bit difficult finding the source at the very moment, so they did call the hazmat team to do a better investigation because they have better meters," MFD Lt. Lorenzo Williams said.

The fire department eventually identified a boiler in the basement on the north end of the building as the probable source of the leak.

About 400 students moved temporarily from Cambridge Commons to RiverView residence hall. Others went to stay with friends in other residence halls or off campus.

The boiler was shut down, and windows opened to provide ventilation.

By 5 a.m. Tuesday, March 1, Cambridge Commons residents were told that they could return to their residence hall if they wished.

All Cambridge Commons residents have been given the option of moving to another residence hall if they have safety concerns, and those who live in the building’s north end will have to move while boiler repairs are being done.

This is expected to take about a month.

Lt. Williams said the incident is a good reminder for people to make sure they have carbon monoxide detectors.

"The bad thing about carbon monoxide is you can't taste it, can't smell it and it's like a hidden thing in the room."

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